Jewish Journal

Letters to the Editor: Frank Gehry, Marty Kaplan, Dennis Prager, Solvable Problems

Posted on Jan. 11, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Setting Record Straight on AFHU, Gehry

David Eisner’s opinion piece (“Caveat Conlator: Funder Beware,” Jan. 7) criticizing the American Friends of the Hebrew University (AFHU) for honoring Frank Gehry was misleading and inaccurate. Let’s set the record straight. AFHU and the Hebrew University are on record opposing boycotts directed at the State of Israel.

AFHU, since its founding 88 years ago, has been central to the development of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which is one of the foundations of the State of Israel. We honored Frank Gehry, who is one of the world’s most acclaimed architects. The dinner in his honor, however, took place Jan. 16, 2010, nine months before Mr. Gehry announced he would join the boycott of the city of Ariel’s new cultural center. The dinner in part was in recognition of his contributions for his magnificent design for the proposed Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. His involvement with that project is hardly an indication of anti-Israel bias. Mr. Gehry’s subsequent decision to join the boycott is entirely an expression of his own opinion; an opinion he is entitled to hold.

Responsible journalism, though, requires responsible fact checking. Mr. Gehry’s comments about the City of Ariel’s cultural center took place long after our dinner. No organization should be held accountable for future remarks made by supporters or honorees which may be counter to that organization’s stated position. The criticism is unfair and unwarranted.

Mark S. Vidergauz
President, AFHU Western Region
Matthew R. Ross
Executive Director, AFHU
Western Region American Friends of the Hebrew University

Time for Speaking Plainly

David Suissa is correct — Israel should indeed stop shadow-boxing and start telling the world plainly that there will be no peace in the near future because Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) doesn’t want it (“Can We Ever Admit Failure?” Dec. 15).

This is exactly the reason the PA declares a willingness to make peace, but only if there is the so-called “right of return” and an Israeli withdrawal to the perilous 1949 armistice lines — so Israel can be swamped demographically with Arab refugees of the 1948-49 war and their millions of descendants and also dismembered territorially.

It is time to drop the talk of Abbas being a peace partner. There should be no rewards or concession to Abbas until and unless the PA fulfills its 17-year-old commitments to arrest terrorists, outlaw terrorist groups, and end the incitement to hatred and murder that suffuses the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps.

Steven M. Goldberg
Vice Chairman, Board of Directors
Zionist Organization of America
New York

Aid for the Crescent City

I was intrigued by Rob Eshman’s list of “solvable problems” for 2011 (Jan. 7), in which he included “religious extremism.” Which group of religious extremists is he talking about? Militant Methodists, angry Amish, suicidal Shakers, crazy Chasidim, howling Hindus or perhaps some other group?  And how does he propose to solve this problem?

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Regarding Rob Eshman’s article on New Orleans’ continuing problems from Katrina (“Solvable Problems,” Jan. 7), he states that our government “has spent about $1 trillion to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan since 2005 – that’s not hyperbole, a trillion dollars ...” In fact, he is far off. We have not spent a tenth of that on rebuilding. I Googled it and could find nothing backing up Eshman’s figures. Instead, site after site, including MSNBC, USA Today and numerous others put the total at more like $83 billion, and even the $83 billion dates from 2003, not 2005. Furthermore, these articles state their source (Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction), which Eshman did not. Eshman’s point (that we should be helping New Orleans) could have, and should have, been made without fairy tale facts.

Judy Quinn
Los Angeles

Rob Eshman responds: The numbers come from costofwar.org, the Congressional Accounting Office and Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz.

Essays Enlighten

I would like to thank you for running the continuing feature “Jewry’s Role in Human Affairs” and to thank the Commission for the Dissemination of Jewish History for providing these short essays about Jewish contributions to humanity, which are always very interesting.

Judith Goldish

Call Senators to the Carpet

Marty Kaplan’s column “The Senators Who Dissed Baby Jesus” (Dec. 24) expressed the frustration, anger and disappointment that I feel toward our current crop of Republican “politicians” with respect to their hypocrisy, demagoguery, obstructionism and, often, stupidity.

Please continue exposing their antics, although from the results of the last election, I’m not sure it will accomplish anything. I believe we live in two Americas, i.e., politically, religiously, socially and intellectually. There’s the coastal states (termed blue), who live in the 21st century, and the heart of America (termed red), who still yearn for the good old 19th century and to whom the Republicans pander.

Gilbert H. Skopp


Prager on Torah

This should be quite a year. Dennis Prager is going to tell us in his columns throughout the year why, as he claims, the Torah is God-given and is the most important and influential book ever written. Will Mr. Prager be a strict constructionist of the Torah or will he leave out parts that contradict the moral lessons he claims the Torah teaches us?

For instance in his Jan. 5 column he calls the God of Torah “the God of morality.” Will Mr. Prager instruct us in Leviticus 26.14-39 wherein God says all the horrible things he’ll do to us if we don’t do all his commandments? Some of these things he will do are send pestilence among us, send the beast of the field among us to rob us of our children and smite us. This doesn’t seem like a very moral God to me. On the other hand, I’ll think twice before eating another shrimp. Prager says we fool ourselves and do not improve the world if we think we can do it consistently and well without an instruction manual, i.e. the Torah.

Dennis Prager, who is a conservative talk-show host, ends his column with these words: “And the greatest instruction manual is the Torah. I intend to show why that is so.” And I intend to end this letter with these words. What chutzpah!

Leon M. Salter
Los Angeles

What Makes a Jew?

Once again we find that “Jewish identity” is certainly not predicated on the practice of Judaism. Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, is being attacked because he is not “a true Christian conservative.” He may have been born Jewish but obviously is not perpetuating the Jewish faith, as his wife and children are Christian.

One-eighth Jewish blood has been enough to confer Jewish roots. A case in point was former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Although brought up in a Christian household, and always an observant Anglican, he was called an “abominable Jew” by his political enemies.

Martin J. Weisman
Westlake Village

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